May 2011 Monthly Message
- Raising Awareness One Step at a Time: Vera Ramacitti Goes the Extra Mile 
- Looking Ahead to the FY2012 Federal Budget 
- Dave Moore of the Association of American Medical Colleges is Featured on Comcast Newsmakers 
- SAVE THE DATE - 2011 Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner 
- Parkinson's in the Media 
Vera Ramacitti, PAN Wisconsin State Coordinator, has been actively engaged in the Parkinson’s community for years. She is constantly thinking of ways to reach out to new people and raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and the issues that surround it. Her advocacy work takes her to colleges, grocery stores, support groups, and even on long walks with family and friends. It is that last idea that got Ramacitti thinking that for Parkinson’s Awareness Month she could raise greater awareness by walking greater distances.
We asked Vera to share some of her thoughts on Parkinson’s advocacy, her “30 Miles in 30 Days” challenge, and how thinking outside the box helps create innovative ways to spread the word for our community.
PAN: When we heard about your idea to walk 30 miles in 30 days to commemorate Parkinson’s Awareness month, we thought it was a creative and smart idea. How did you decide this was something you wanted to do?
Vera: One of my Facebook friends invited me to take on a challenge of walking “30 Miles in 30 Days.” I thought, I could do this. I used email and Facebook to let my friends and colleagues know what I was going to do, and I encouraged them to help me spread the word.
Some joined me on my walks, and others donated money to the Parkinson’s Action Network and other Parkinson’s charities as a way to support the cause. I contacted newspapers and TV stations to make them aware of what I was doing.
One thing I always say is “never ever assume someone else is doing something you think should be done.” That was true for my walking challenge, and it was also true for asking Wisconsin’s governor to proclaim April as “Parkinson’s Awareness Month.” I knew these things needed to be done, and so I did them.
PAN: How did you start, and were you able to complete your goal?
Vera: I walked 37.5 miles in 30 days, regardless of rain, sleet, and yes, snow -- walking with physical therapists during their lunch hour, strangers, girls from the bank, neighbors, by myself, with my family, and with my fellow “Parkies” people from our support group. But my favorite walking is – and always will be – with my grandchildren. Pushing a stroller or walking with a four-year-old…. wow! My mile sometimes took two hours to walk because my grandson never could pass up a puddle to splash in or snow pile to climb on.
PAN: What sort of responses did you get from people while on your walks?
Vera: One of the biggest responses I got when people asked me about some of the specifics about Parkinson’s was, “I never knew that.” This made me feel good because I felt like I was able to really enlighten people about this disease. I would start my walks with others by asking them a simple question, “Did you know that Parkinson's is not just an old person's disease?” Then, the questions and conversations would start. One person told me that I was her inspiration. I cried. People with Parkinson’s are the BEST to ask about it, or to talk to about this disease.
PAN: Will you continue this kind of outreach in the future?
Vera: I’m still walking every day, sometimes by myself and a lot of times with others. My husband has always called me his “social butterfly.” I talk to almost everyone I run into about Parkinson’s. How do we expect people to understand Parkinson’s if they do not know anything about it? I try to make every day of every month about Parkinson’s awareness.
PAN: Any new ideas brewing for creative ways you can raise awareness?
Vera: I'm thinking of starting something around the theme of “Parkie Power.” This is something I’m working on with my grandson, Ryder. He says I’m his superhero. In his words, I walk with a candy cane that can shoot bad things out of the sky. I use him and “Parkie Power” in my talks with people about Parkinson’s. Maybe even write a children's book? The sky is the limit!
PAN: What advice can you give other advocates who want to raise awareness in creative ways?
Vera: My advice is: Never, EVER think that someone else will do something you know needs to be done. And, be prepared. I always have a special bag in my car full of Parkinson’s information to pass out to people. I’m always ready to talk about it and educate others. Awareness is just that.
Thank you, Vera, for your dedication and devotion to raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease. We think you’re an inspiration, and we can’t wait to hear more from you.